The word Influenza comes from the Italian language meaning “influence” and refers to the cause of the disease; initially, this ascribed illness to unfavorable astrological influences. Changes in medical thought led to its modification to influenza del freddo, meaning “influence of the cold”. Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae, the influenza viruses. Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a more severe disease caused by a different type of virus.
Influenza can be spread in three main ways:
* By direct transmission (when an infected person sneezes mucus directly into the eyes, nose or mouth of another person)
* the airborne route (when someone inhales the aerosols produced by an infected person coughing, sneezing or spitting) and
* Through hand-to-eye, hand-to-nose, or hand-to-mouth transmission, either from contaminated surfaces or from direct personal contact such as a hand-shake.
Airborne aerosols have been thought to cause most infections, although which means of transmission is most important is not absolutely clear. Influenza viruses can be inactivated by sunlight, disinfectants and detergents. As the virus can be inactivated by soap, frequent hand washing reduces the risk of infection. Flu can occasionally lead to pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia, even for persons who are usually very healthy. In particular it is a warning sign if a child (or presumably an adult) seems to be getting better and then relapses with a high fever as this relapse may be bacterial pneumonia. Another warning sign is if the person starts to have trouble breathing.
People with the flu are advised to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, avoid using alcohol and tobacco and, if necessary, take medications such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) to relieve the fever and muscle aches associated with the flu. Children and teenagers with flu symptoms (particularly fever) should avoid taking aspirin during an influenza infection (especially influenza type B), because doing so can lead to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease of the liver. Since influenza is caused by a virus, antibiotics have no effect on the infection; unless prescribed for secondary infections such as bacterial pneumonia. Antiviral medication may be effective, but some strains of influenza can show resistance to the standard antiviral drugs and there is concern about the quality of the research.
Symptoms of influenza may include:
1. Fever and extreme coldness (chills shivering, shaking (rigor)
3. Nasal congestion
4. Runny nose
5. Body aches, especially joints and throat
8. Irritated, watering eyes
9. Reddened eyes, skin (especially face), mouth, throat and nose
10. Petechial rash In children
11. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain
Effective ways to reduce the transmission of influenza:
1. Good personal health and hygiene habits such as: not touching your eyes, nose or mouth;
2. Frequent hand washing (with soap and water, or with alcohol-based hand rubs)
3. Covering coughs and sneezes
4. Avoiding close contact with sick people
5. Staying home yourself if you are sick
6. Avoiding spitting is also recommended
7. Face masks might help prevent transmission when caring for the sick